Topic: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Written by William Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – The moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.
“The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.”
NASA’s Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA – One of the best ways to learn how our solar system evolved is to look at younger star systems in the early stages of development. Recently, a team of astronomers including NASA scientists discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could serve as a decoder ring for understanding how planets formed around our sun.
The new planet, called 51 Eridani (Eri) b, is the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a new instrument operated by an international collaboration, and installed on the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope in Chile.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will zip past Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, August 17th — the final close flyby of this icy satellite during the spacecraft’s long mission.
Cassini’s closest approach, within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of Dione’s surface, will occur at 11:33am PDT (2:33pm EDT). Mission controllers expect fresh images to begin arriving on Earth within a couple of days following the encounter.
Cassini scientists have a bevy of investigations planned for Dione. Gravity-science data from the flyby will improve scientists’ knowledge of the moon’s internal structure and allow comparisons to Saturn’s other moons.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – A piece of tape can only be used a few times before the adhesion wears off and it can no longer hold two surfaces together. But researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on the ultimate system of stickiness, inspired by geckos.
Thanks to tiny hairs on the bottom of geckos’ feet, these lizards can cling to walls with ease, and their stickiness doesn’t wear off with repeated usage. JPL engineer Aaron Parness and colleagues used that concept to create a material with synthetic hairs that are much thinner than a human hair. When a force is applied to make the tiny hairs bend, that makes the material stick to a desired surface.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Next time you tune in to public radio or the hottest Top 40 radio station, you’ll be using some of the same tools NASA uses to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
Courtney Duncan, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says studying radio waves coming from a known source in space can reveal a great deal about objects in our solar system.
Of course, there is nothing new in that. NASA scientists have been turning the transmissions of their spacecraft’s radio into scientific gold since almost the beginning of the space age. And ground-based astronomers have not been left outside of the radio spectrum looking in.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit). On July 29th, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles (186 kilometers) from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date.
Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS), which uses NASA-built electronics. The DFMS is part of the spacecraft’s Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Ten years after launch, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed the Red Planet’s diversity and activity, returning more data about Mars every week than all six other missions currently active there. And its work is far from over.
The workhorse orbiter now plays a key role in NASA’s Journey to Mars planning. Images from the orbiter, revealing details as small as a desk, aid the analysis of potential landing sites for the 2016 InSight lander and Mars 2020 rover. Data from the orbiter will also be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites where humans will first explore the Martian surface in the 2030s.
NASA Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center, FL – The six astronauts currently living on the International Space Station (ISS) have become the first people to eat food grown in space. The fresh red romaine lettuce that accompanied the crew’s usual freeze-dried fare, however, is far from the first crop grown on a space station.
For decades, NASA and other agencies have experimented with plants in space, but the results were always sent to Earth for examination, rather than eaten.
A number of technologies NASA has explored for these space-farming experiments also have returned to Earth over the years and found their way onto the market.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – One of the key necessities for life on our planet is electricity. That’s not to say that life requires a plug and socket, but everything from shrubs to ants to people harnesses energy via the transfer of electrons — the basis of electricity.
Some experts think that the very first cell-like organisms on Earth channeled electricity from the seafloor using bubbling, chimney-shaped structures, also known as chemical gardens.
Written by Linda Herridge
Kennedy Space Center, FL – Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA’s one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce Monday, August 10th, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.
The astronauts will clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes before consuming them. They will eat half of the space bounty, setting aside the other half to be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.
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